Jim Delany on Conference Realignment: "It's An Item That Has Been Discussed Before"

By Matthew Filipovits on December 6, 2018 at 10:00 am
Sep 1, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; A detailed view of the Big Ten logo on the field prior to the game between the Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With the Big Ten being left out of the College Football Playoff for the second straight season, the conversation surrounding realigning the conference has come up yet again, and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany seems open to having the conversation. 

People have been calling for conference realignment for a few years now, citing the fact that four of the conference's five best teams play in the same division. Since the conference shifted to more geographically-focused divisions in 2014, the Big Ten East has become one of, if not the most, difficult divisions to play in in all of college football. 

In the five seasons since the realignment, the conference champion has come from the East every year. If you go back to the championship game's inception in 2011 when the divisions were the Leaders and Legends, two of the three schools that won now reside in the East. A current-East team probably would have won all three but Wisconsin went in place of Ohio State in 2012 due to sanctions. So that's seven of the eight Big Ten championship game winners currently in the same division, with the one current West winner more or less having an asterisk next to their title.

That kind of lopsidedness didn't even exist in SEC's glory days earlier this decade. 

The lack of balance in the divisions shows even more on a national level. As a whole, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State have made 12 New Years Six bowl games in the past five years, including Ohio State's National Championship Game victory in 2014. The West, on the other hand, has made three total, with two coming from Wisconsin.

A full-fledged remake of the conference isn't exactly necessary. The divisions will never be truly equal, but the big four teams in the East at least need to be split up.

Let's take a look at some options:

Division 1 Division 2
Penn State Ohio State
Michigan State Michigan
Northwestern Nebraska
Wisconsin Indiana
Rutgers Illinois
Minnesota Purdue
Iowa Maryland

As mentioned, the most important thing to do is to split up Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. Ohio State and Michigan should remain in the same division, simply to keep The Game as important as it is to the regular season. It would take all the fun out of the biggest regular season game of the year if they just played it again the following week for the conference title. 

After that the focus shifts to making the conference as balanced as possible. Under this setup, both conferences would have finished 2018 with exactly 46 total wins apiece this season. It's not a perfect balance, but it's a start.

Regardless of how they do, the divisions need to be realigned if the Big Ten hopes to consistently have a team in the College Football Playoff. While it may be a while before we see it come to fruition, it's good to see the people in charge at least see there is a problem and are prepared to work through it.

Do you think the divisions should be realigned? And if so, how would you do it? Let us know in the comments!

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